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Survey reveals "eco-anxiety" over climate crisis

Posted on 2 November 2021

A majority of people believe that climate change will have a more significant effect on humanity than will Covid-19, according to a survey involving the University of York..

The survey revealed 78 per cent of people reported some level of fear about climate change Pic: Glacier in Europe. Credit: Alistair Keely, University of York

The survey, carried out as part of a study into “eco-anxiety” by the University of York and Global Future thinktank, revealed that overall, 78 per cent of people reported some level of fear about climate change, with 41 per cent reporting being very much or extremely fearful.

The survey is published as hundreds of world leaders gather in Glasgow for COP26 to discuss the climate. The two-week summit is seen as crucial if climate change is to be brought under control.

Concerns

Fear about climate change is high amongst all classes with 42 per cent of middle and upper-class people reporting high levels of concern compared to 39 per cent amongst working class groups, the survey showed.

Nearly half (43 per cent) of people living in London, the east and southeast of England reported high levels of fear regarding climate change, compared to 38 per cent of those living in the north and the midlands.

The survey also revealed that women remain significantly more anxious about climate change (45 per cent) than men (36 per cent), and are more likely to change their behaviour.

The authors of the report say that people are sceptical about the impact their personal lifestyle changes can make. They are more likely to blame industrialised nations, corporations and consumer culture for climate change than individuals. 

Priorities

Dr Pavlos Vasilopoulos, politics lecturer at the University of York and one of the authors, said: “These findings contest commonly held views that the environment is only an issue for the southern middle class.

"Instead, climate change appears to be becoming more similar to issues such as unemployment or crime, which are recognised as priorities by the majority and are used to evaluate government performance.”

Rowenna Davis, director of Global Future, said: “Everyone – rich and poor, young and old, north and south, men and women – is suffering eco-anxiety. Therefore, some cynical politicians who seek to use wedge issues like petrol prices to divide the public are not only wrong, they are also making a strategic error.

“Whoever hopes to win the next election will need to win the ‘red wall’. This will mean responding to concerns these voters actually hold rather than perceptions of them. From our research, this must include a meaningful response to climate change.”

 

Media enquiries

Alistair Keely
Head of Media Relations

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322153

About this research

The survey was carried out as part of a study into “eco-anxiety” by the University of York and the Global Future thinktank. Explore our research